Foodie Tuesday: First attempt at Peruvian Saltado

Hey guys, sorry for the flood of food posts but I guess food's one of the few things that make sense in this mad, crazy world.

I probably ate this first at El Polla Inka in Anaheim sometime during high school.  It was pretty tasty, but it wasn't until I had it at Mario's Peruvian Seafood--on the eastside in LA, close to Larchmont Village/Hancock Park (it's technically Mid-Wilshire)--that I was blown away.  I went back for more, tried it multiple times in various combinations.  I decided the two best versions are lomo saltado (beef) and saltado mariscos (some mix of shellfish usually).

So what is a saltado exactly?  I understand it to be a stir-fry of sorts, made with your choice of meat (most traditionally beef, but also chicken, fish, shrimp), red onions, tomatoes, and french fries, served over rice.  The meat is marinated with a mixture of soy sauce and spices.  

Since moving to the Bay area I've had saltado at Mi Lindo Peru, on the border of the Mission district and Bernal Heights in SF.  Most of the saltados are solid, but the seafood saltado, with its delicate mix of shrimp and squid, is great.
It never occurred to me that I could re-create this dish at home, until I got some leftover home fries after eating out the other day and thought I could incorporate them into my own version of saltado.

I started with this very informative article on Chowhound, but made a few tweaks of my own. I was surprised the dish came out so well, but the key was to have a very hot carbon steel (or cast-iron) wok over a gas flame. It's imperative for getting the right caramelization and browning/crusting on everything. 
This is what I did:
  • I used frozen basa (sole) fillets which I sliced and marinated in some soy sauce with cumin powder, paprika and ground pepper.  I didn't have quite enough basa so I used some of the fancy smoked salmon I bought but didn't marinate that.
  • I went all-out and used Peruvian blue/purple potatoes for the fries.  Sliced them up to steak-fry size and deef-fried them in a heavy pan. Blue potatoes have a deliciously nutty flavor and richer texture than regular potatoes.
  • Roughly cubed two tomatoes off the vine along with half a red onion.  Threw the onions into a very hot wok with minced garlic and let it brown/char a bit, then cooked until it was only slightly wilty.  Added the tomatoes and stir-fried it for just a minute or two, just enough to "warm up" the tomatoes.
  • Lastly, wiped the wok off a bit and made sure it was super hot before throwing on the fish to brown.  Cooked on one side for 1 min. and the flipped, being careful to scrape each piece off the wok along with its delicious browned crust.  Cooked the other side until done.
  • Tossed everything together.  Served over brown rice (extra healthy!)
Warning: Make sure your kitchen is well ventilated!  The amount of steam/smoke you create while cooking this dish is unbelievable.